Hidden in the darkness of a Bartholomew County Jail tower, overlooking cell blocks of inmates, Steven Reed flips through a pile of mail intended for the incarcerated. His flashlight helps shed light on his search for impermissible items.
“Anything can conceal contraband,” said Reed, a 24-year-old correctional officer.
There’s no telling what Reed and his colleagues will discover. Some days, love letters with lipstick imprints. Other days, drugs.
Although tighter restrictions limit what can be brought in for inmates, correctional officers remain engaged in a never-ending battle with those who attempt to slip impermissible items through to those in the jailed.
“You’ve always got to be aware of your surroundings and stay one step ahead of the game,” Reed said. “That’s what it takes to be successful here.”
Thirty-nine correctional officers guard the 50,000-square-foot Bartholomew County Jail. It has 14 cell blocks and two towers to oversee the jail population.
Correctional officers have individual areas of specialties.
Master control operators oversee the entire facility from within a dark corridor near the front of the jail and have the ability to shut down the entire facility.
Intake officers handle booking of inmates. Transport officers handle the transportation of inmates from the jail to the court, among other places. Tower operators help oversee activity, and rovers escort inmates. But they are all cross-trained to handle others’ duties.
And all have the duty of making sure contraband does not slip through the cracks.
“You have bad experiences here and there,” Reed said. “There’s never been a morning where I dread coming to work. Every day is different. Nothing is really ever the same. There’s never really a daily grind in this business.”
Since January, when the Bartholomew County Jail first started keeping statistics on confiscated contraband, correctional officers have stopped 52 impermissible items from getting into inmates hands.
Some people attempt to deliver illegal items to inmates via the mail. Earlier this year, Reed and his colleagues repeatedly discovered thin strips of Suboxone — a narcotic intended to treat opiate dependence — underneath stamps and in the seal of envelopes.
There were no return addresses.
Traffic slowed late last month when a Hope woman was arrested for attempting to sneak Suboxone to her incarcerated boyfriend. The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department charged the woman with felony counts of attempting to deal a controlled substance and trafficking with an inmate.
“When (inmates) found out we were taking (the Suboxone) to detectives, I guess it scared them enough to stop,” said Sgt. Tom Finke, a shift supervisor at the jail.
For security reasons, the county has increased the restrictions on what’s allowed to be brought into the jail. Allowable items, which might be dropped off by family or friends presenting a valid photo identification card, are:
For men, six pairs of white boxers or briefs in their original packages.
For women, six pairs of white underwear and three bras with no wires. All must be in their original packages.
That list used to be a lot longer, Myers said,
“We used to accept tennis shoes,” Reed said. “But people would actually take the soles of the tennis shoes out and sometimes even bore out the bottom and hide drugs.”
Additionally, everyone who visits is subject to search.
“It’d be pretty hard for anyone to (smuggle contraband),” Myers said. “We now scan everybody that comes through, even going as far as attorneys, clergy and the people that teach classes. That’s just standard policy.”
When inmates report to the Bartholomew County Jail, they’re patted down for contraband and strip-searched if officers have suspicions. The inmates then change into their jail garb and enter a world of non-stop surveillance.
Cell blocks are checked daily. Officers search for drugs and anything that can be used as a weapon. Myers, a 29-year veteran of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, said he’s seen toothbrushes sharpened into knives and tube socks stuffed with tightly-wrapped newspapers made into clubs.
Razor blades can be used to make potentially deadly weapons. They’re distributed by the jail to meet the state’s personal hygiene requirements, but they’re supposed to be returned.
“You know how that goes,” Myers said.
“All they’ve got is the time to think how they can try to beat the system,” Myers said.
There are consequences when inmates are caught with contraband. The jail administration officers deliver sanctions ranging from loss of recreation time to loss of classroom time.
“It can lead up to criminal charges,” Myers said.
And that’s not only for inmates.
Such was the case when the Hope woman was caught attempting to deliver Suboxone. She wasn’t the first, and she won’t be the last, Myers expects.
“It’s a constant battle,” Myers said. “Whatever you say they can’t have, they want it.”
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!comments powered by Disqus
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.